We love rooting for the underdog, don’t we?
Make no mistake, there was no bigger underdog at the NHL All-Star Weekend than John Scott, a role player known more for his fists than his silky mitts. He did something that the game’s biggest stars have not done in recent years, he put the NHL All-Star game on the map.
An exhibition game that had lost all of its luster will be water cooler talk this week and, in irony of all ironies, the NHL has John Scott to thank.
The journeyman hockey player, who found work in the NHL because he was willing to drop the gloves on a nightly basis, was elected captain of the Pacific Division All-Star team in fan balloting weeks before All-Star weekend. A move that was criticized by many, including myself (who will now publicly apologize to Mr. Scott).
The fans, who voted for Scott, were criticized for making a travesty of the game.
Scott was asked by the NHL to forfeit his trip to the All-Star game. He refused and was traded from Phoenix to Montreal. The Canadiens, immediately, sent Scott to their American Hockey League affiliate with the intent of keeping Scott away from this year’s All-Star gala in Nashville.
It backfired. All of it. Scott held his ground and was ruled eligible by the League to fulfill his duties as captain the Pacific Division All-Stars.
Expectations continued that, Scott, a player with limited skill and ability would embarrass himself and the league.
He did neither.
Skating in the 3 on 3 format with some of the game’s brightest stars, Scott, exhibited puckhandling and shooting skills that he is not able to show on a nightly basis. He scored two goals in his club’s 9-6 win over the favored Central Division moving the Pacific Division All-Stars to the championship game versus the Atlantic All-Stars.
He did not score in the championship game but it did not matter. Scott had won the hearts of the fans in Nashville and of those watching on televisions around the globe. Proof of that came when the NHL announced the three names fans could select as most valuable player and Scott was not one of those players. Social media blew up urging write in votes for Scott and when it was all said and done, John Scott was named MVP.
Did Scott do enough to be named MVP? Maybe.
Did other players make better plays? Sure, but you expect those players to do that. You do not expect Scott to score two goals in an all-star game. He had become the biggest star among a bevy of stars, who, like you, were genuinely happy for him.
“It was great,” Scott said after the game. “I didn’t know how the players would react to me being here, but everybody’s been overwhelmingly supportive. They, kind of, in their own way, pulled me aside and said, ‘Hey, we’re glad you’re here. We’re happy to have a guy like you playing out here. Good luck.’ I think they’re happy I won (MVP), surprisingly. It was nothing but good words from those guys.”
“I never, in a million years, (believed) I would be in an all-star game, to have the fans get behind me, like that. To score two goals, you can’t put into words. You can’t write this stuff. It’s unbelievable how it happens.”
Congratulations Mr. Scott. For one weekend, the hockey world was yours and we just lived in it and deservedly so. Just one thing, you say this can’t be written, well, that is not entirely true. Ever hear of a character named Rocky Balboa? I’m sure you have. He was an underdog who became a hero much like you did during the 2016 All-Star Weekend.
Follow ESPN New Hampshire NHL/NCAA Writer, Shawn Hutcheon, on Twitter at @ShawnHutcheon.